June 7, 2018
Let's catch up on what I've read lately...
How to Raise a Boy. As always, and now more than ever, I'm conscious of the way we are raising our boys. This is a great article, and this passage particularly resonated: "... the lessening power of men (straight and white particularly) is an unquestioned societal good. ... The only thing is: There are two future white men who live in my house, and I love them very much."
Wait Until 8th—A Pledge to Delay Smartphone Usage in Kids. I hate the never-ending battle over technology. I think we're doing okay so far. We go through phases, but in general, our kids are still the "play outside until the sun goes down" types. Aaron has a gizmo gadget, which enables us to keep in touch when necessary. It's not perfect, but it gets the job done, and it's helping us fill the gap for now.
The most reasonable article about nutrition I've ever read.
It's Hard to Delete Facebook Without an Alternative. After the news about Cambridge Analytica, I watched the whole #deletefacebook movement happen, but I still haven't deleted my account. Because it fills a need - it helps me keep in touch with my far-away family and friends.
Americans Love Seeing Swedish Dads Out With Their Kids. And This is a Problem. I loved this article. What's "normal" here is not normal everywhere. It'd be nice if we could learn from and be influenced by other countries and cultures.
Belly is Back! Fun to hear new music from one of my all-time favorites. Also fun to read about how they decided to get back together.
‘Exile In Guyville’ Decodes Feminism’s Generational Divide. Cool article about Liz Phair and feminism.
The Professor on a Mission to Make Math Lovable. This article is about my nephew-in-law, a ridiculously smart and sweet guy. "...there is so much poetry and philosophy in math, it is really more of a humanities discipline anyway."
NBC News asked men and women in different professions across the U.S. how the #MeToo movement has changed the way they interact with people at work - if at all. This is a sampling of their responses. Many of them are not surprising, but some sure did make me sad. I'm grateful I've worked in open and accepting environments and with really good guys throughout my career, although the culture has definitely changed over the years (and that's a good thing).
In the #MeToo Era, Raising Boys to Be Good Guys. Yep, I read this stuff every day. I am hyper aware of the influences in their lives, from seeing cheerleaders on the sidelines of football and basketball games (I'm grateful that they prefer baseball and soccer), to the types of books they read and movies they watch. It is getting harder, though. But I will make them do their chores (yes lawn mowing, but also dishes and scrubbing toilets and dusting), and I will keep talking to them.
Curiosity and What Equality Really Means, by Atul Gawande. I love reading anything by him, and this commencement speech to the UCLA medical school is no exception.
Talking to Boys the Way We Talk to Girls. As always, I'm intrigued by the differences in how we raise boys vs. girls. As a mother of boys, I want to be conscious of the biases and stereotypes that exist, so I can ensure we aren't demonstrating them at home. And when we do fall into those stereotypical traps, I want to recognize it and talk about it.
To end on a light note, here are a few recipes I want to bookmark. The Best Lemon Bars. I'd also like to try some new veggie burger recipes this summer. I'm going to start with either this, or this, or this. And I made this Watermelon, Feta, and Arugula Salad last week, and it's great. So light and refreshing - perfect for a cookout. Aaron enjoyed it and requested that I make it again.
June 6, 2018
Every now and then, I fall into a spiral of chaos and inertia. I become unproductive, disorganized, and I struggle to prioritize and focus. I often don't know what causes it, and it is always challenging to find my way back.
I've been in one of these states lately. There are many contributing factors, no doubt. Spring is such a busy time of year, especially for parents of school-aged children. Baseball and soccer practices and games, piano recitals, school chorus and drama performances, parent/teacher conferences, end-of-year parties and portfolio/field days, and the list goes on. Then of course there's work. I've been in a challenging role, and I'm in discussions regarding a transition.
That all feels like a list of excuses, though, and really, I don't know what it is. What I've realized in the past is this: gratitude and presence is usually the way out. If I can organize myself around this seemingly small task - expressing gratitude each day - then I can do anything. It reminds me of that Navy Seal Commander who said we could change the world if we just made our bed every morning. I get that.
So even though blogging is dead, and nobody reads any more, I'm going to get back to my little blog. Even if I'm the only one reading it.
I've been spending a lot of time watching these guys. This fabulous group of boys is a ton of fun to watch.
May 10, 2018
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas.
The main character is a sixteen-year-old girl. She lives in a poor and rough neighborhood but attends a prep school in a more affluent suburb. She witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend by a white police officer. I loved this book. It is a YA book that is well-written, fast-paced, and thought-provoking. It provides different perspectives, and it challenges the reader to put themselves in the shoes of the characters.
Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward.
"Sorrow is food swallowed too quickly, caught in the throat, making it nearly impossible to breathe." The descriptive and beautiful language of this book instantly drew me in. It is beautifully and elegantly written. It sometimes feels like reading a song or a poem. It's a character-driven story about an African-American family in Mississippi, and it's also a story about ghosts. It's mystical, and it will hit you in the heart - there were parts that literally made me ache.
The Humans, by Matt Haig.
I wasn't quite sure what to make of this book at first. I read it at the recommendation of a friend, who said the payoff was worth it, and she was right. The story is unique - the main character is a math professor who solves the secret of prime numbers, an enormous mathematical discovery that would change life on earth, leading to technological advancements and even solving the problems of illness and death. Unfortunately for him, aliens have learned of his discovery, and they send one of their own to kill him, assume his identity, and ensure that his information was not shared with anyone. The story opens as the alien has entered the body of the math professor and has to learn how to navigate life as a human. The first half of the book is focused on his observations of humans and human life. As he becomes emotionally attached to his human life, his reflects become deeper and more interesting. It culminates in a letter of advice he leaves for his son. They're all wonderful, but here are a few to entice you to pick up this highly entertaining book:
- Don’t worry about your abilities. You have the ability to love. That is enough.
- Peanut butter sandwiches go perfectly well with a glass of white wine. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
- Read poetry. Especially poetry by Emily Dickinson. It might save you. Anne Sexton knows the mind, Walt Whitman knows grass, but Emily Dickinson knows everything.
- If you think something is ugly, look harder. Ugliness is just a failure of seeing.
- If there is a sunset, stop and look at it. Knowledge is finite. Wonder is infinite.
April 23, 2018
Costa Rica is amazing. It's the perfect place for a family vacation, when your kids are old enough to enjoy very active outdoor activities. My Nathan chose Costa Rica as a destination after learning about it at school. He said that he really wanted to go see animals in a rain forest. What a fabulous idea! So we did!
Costa Rica can be a bit intimidating, because there's so much to do and see! I did some research, talked to people who had been there, and quickly became overwhelmed. I didn't want to spend too much time traveling between locations, especially since my family is plagued by motion sickness. I wanted to see and experience the country, but I also wanted the vacation to feel like a vacation.
As we try to do with each of our trips, we prioritized by identifying activities that were most important for each of us. Nathan wanted to see animals in the rain forest. Aaron was most excited about river tubing. Kevin wanted to not go zip-lining. I really wanted to try surfing.
We found our balance by spending four days at a resort in the rain forest, near the Arenal volcano; and four days at the beach. And it was fabulous. There is a lot we didn't see, but I loved this trip so much. We have all declared it our best trip ever - even better than Disneyworld! I told the boys that perhaps we'll go back in a few years, once they've learned some Spanish.
Some highlights below...
We toured a wildlife sanctuary with a fabulous guide, who told us the personal stories of each of the animals. I was proud that my boys knew almost as much as he did about the animals - yay for Wild Kratts!
Rock climbing was hard and really fun!
The boys spent a lot of time at the end of the river, swimming and playing in the strong current. River tubing was so much fun that we did it twice! Another highlight was a night walk we took through the forest - a guide walked us through the forest at night, and we found frogs and spiders and listened to the sounds of the howler monkeys nearby. Sooooo cool.
The hanging bridges were a highlight for sure. With a guide, we saw a lot of really cool animals, and the bridges themselves were very neat.
La Fortuna Waterfall was lovely. Unfortunately, we walked the 500 steps down to it after spending the morning at the hanging bridges, and Nathan was wiped! A tired Nathan is not a happy Nathan. I especially loved the lunch that we earned that day. We ate at a wonderful local restaurant with our guide and driver, and saw sloths in the trees while we ate!
Our resort had many hot springs (from warm to really hot), and there was a water slide too. We spent some time here each day.
After spending a day at the hotel pool, we spent a day at a nearby beach. There was a really nice restaurant right on the beach, and we rented bodyboards and played all day. Here, Nathan is watching a group of guys play soccer on the beach. A beautiful day!
As I said, surfing was my priority, and it did not disappoint! I had always wanted to try surfing but never had. I didn't have any expectations about it or about how the boys would enjoy it - it was my choice, not theirs. Thankfully, it was fantastic! We had two instructors for the four of us and an entire beach to ourselves. So much fun!
I'm so grateful we had the opportunity to visit this beautiful country!
March 9, 2018
I have some catching up to do on books, too. Here are a few I've read recently. More to come, as I've gotten off to a quick start this year.
Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng.
This started out slowly, and although it was okay, and the writing is good, I couldn't tell where it was headed. But then! It got interesting. The first half of the book is detail and character-heavy, as the authors sets the scene. The second half is plot-heavy and quickly becomes a page-turner. The story centers around two families, and the characters are all very different and written in wonderful detail. You really feel like you get to know all of them. It was fascinating to think about situations from various perspectives, and it's made all the more powerful by not forcing the reader to choose sides.
Anything is Possible, by Elizabeth Strout.
This book feels like a character study. If you enjoy people-watching, and imagining what their lives are like and what they're thinking, then you'll love this. If you enjoyed My Name is Lucy Barton and want to know what happens when she returns home to visit her siblings, then you'll love this. Personally, while I enjoyed the writing and the interesting characters, I wanted something more to happen. And when it didn't, I was okay when it ended.
The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah.
I loved this book. It starts in 1974, when Leni is a 13-year-old girl. Her father has returned from Vietnam a changed and unstable man. Along with Leni's mom, they move around the country, searching for stability and a place to belong. They move to Alaska to live off the grid and make their way in the wild, settling in a small and very tight-knit community of homesteaders. It's a beautiful and gripping story that kept me up way too late, because I simply didn't want to put it down.
March 8, 2018
It's cold and gray and we just made it through another snowstorm. I figured this was a good time for a positive post about some of the beautiful things in my life.
My boys are old enough to shovel by themselves! The driveway and sidewalks were cleared before I even took a shower this morning. That is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Unfortunately, schools were closed today. But! Nathan recently learned how to play Monopoly, and he really wanted to teach Aaron, who had never played. They spent almost three hours playing Monopoly this morning. They had fun, with no fights, and no whining at the end; and I was able to get some work done. Amazing.
The book I'm reading right now is great. I keep staying up too late, but I love getting sucked into a good one. It's super weird and interesting and different, and that's perfect for right now. I also love that I can continue to read by flashlight when the power goes out.
And another bonus - the power is back on! How easily we take it for granted. Heat, hot water, a cold fridge, phones, TV, etc. Maybe it's good to have the reminder every now and then of just how good we have it.
February 27, 2018
It's been a while since I've done one of these. Let's catch up...
Feeling - Motivated. I'm starting a new project at work, and although I don't handle change well, I'm determined to stay ahead of that anxious feeling this time.
Watching - Superhero movies. We saw Black Panther last week, and watched Thor: Ragnarok this past weekend. Loved them both. (P.S. - I told the boys I want to be Hela for Halloween. Cate Blanchett is fabulous.)Wearing - Sweaters and boots, boots and sweaters. It's winter. It's been a long, weird, wet winter, too, which has felt more like a very long spring. And I hate spring. I am certainly craving the warmer days.
Appreciating - Bad Yogi studio. I really like Erin's yoga classes, and they enable me to do yoga more at home. The classes are of various lengths, so I can choose what fits my schedule. I did a full hour on Sunday morning, but only had time for 20 minutes on Monday. More yoga makes for a happy Mary.
Eating - Lots and lots of veggies. Roasted. In Salads. Soups. I'm doing a good job getting my daily servings of veggies. (Which justifies my nightly dessert.)
Reading - Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone. I adored The Nightingale, so I picked this one up right away. I'm about halfway through now, and it's keeping me up too late at night, because I don't want to put it down.
Listening - Brandi Carlile, First Aid Kit, Glen Hansard, and Brian Fallon. I adore First Aid Kit. I'm watching the announcements for the Newport Folk Festival, and that's the name I want to see more than any other.
Wanting - More time outside. The cold and dreary (but not cold enough for skiing) weather has been difficult. I need to get outside, take more walks, or hikes, something.
Anticipating - A trip to Costa Rica for Spring Break. Is it here yet?
Planning - Our trip to Barcelona in August, with a few days in London on the way home.
Thinking - I don't spend enough time with my friends. And friends are important.
Realizing - I turn 44 next month. 44. But then again, Cate Blanchett is 48, and she did this, so...
Loving- This weird phase of life, where I get to experience baseball games and superhero movies with my boys while I come to terms (or not) with my own age.
February 23, 2018
This picture reflects my mood today. Pensive. I just want to lie upside down in a wingback chair and feel my feelings. I really want the black cat to watch me from above, too.
Here are just a few of the articles I've bookmarked (somewhat) recently...
How I Stopped Checking My Phone And Started Using It With Intention. I do some of these already, but I could do more. It's a continuous process, to check in on how I'm doing. I downloaded the "In the Moment" app, but I honestly think that just gave me one more thing to check on my phone! I know others who have found it helpful, though. For me, the "rubber band on the phone" reminder helps, along with no notifications, and keeping the phone charging after I get home and go to bed. (Here's another good one on the same topic.)
Family Dinner, Redefined. Lots of tips about how to handle the family dinner. This week in particular, I've been having the feeling of dread when I realize that I need to decide what to have for dinner again. (Must we eat dinner every day?!?) I definitely need to get back in the habit of planning for the week, but I like some of these other tips and reminders too.
Talking to Boys the Way We Talk to Girls. As a mom of boys, I am endlessly interested in this topic of how we parent boys and girls differently, whether it's conscious or not.
The Problem with Seeking the Best for Your Kids. I think about this all. the. time. We ended up in a community with good schools, but not because that's what we were seeking. We mostly moved to the suburbs, because I need space! I wanted my boys to be able to run outside and play. We got that, and we also got good public schools. But I think often about what I could do to support Boston public schools without actually moving there, and what my boys are missing by not being exposed to a more diverse education.
Women Aren't Nags—We're Just Fed Up. A harsh title, perhaps, but valid. I've posted something similar before, but I still relate and think it's good to talk about and ensure understanding.
The Final Interview with Sturgill Simpson, According to Sturgill Simpson. This one's just for fun. I find Sturgill Simpson to be highly entertaining.
The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto. Since reading this, I think about how I greet my kids every time I see them. I think I naturally lit up anyway, but I'm very conscious of it now.
Adam Rippon's One Technique For Staying Calm Under Pressure. I am loving Adam Rippon. He and Leslie Jones can do commentary every time as far as I'm concerned. These are great tips for staying calm. Perspective and gratitude go a long way.
The Boys Are Not All Right. The Parkland school shooting is taking up a lot of mental space these days. I listened to the news with sadness as I heard about the victims and the heroes. I watch with awe and admiration the students who are fighting to be heard. I become angry and frustrated listening to everybody fight about it, as though this is all hypothetical and there aren't real children dying. I've read a lot about it, but this article provides a different focus, instead looking at the possible reasons why boys are almost always the ones doing the shooting.
February 22, 2018
I'm not typically prone to nostalgia - I try to focus on the present. I enjoy thinking about the past, reminiscing, but I don't long to go backwards. However, I recognize that my perspective and this tendency to look back continues to increase as I get older. It's a strange thing, this whole business of aging. I notice the passing of time so acutely now. Each passing of a week, a month, a season. The start of another school year, another Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas. Then the long, cold, dreary January.
I've never truly felt the optimism of January and the start of the new year. It does feel clean and simple and quiet, especially after the excesses of December; but it also feels like a bit of a let-down, and I'm never quite sure what to do with myself. I exercise, eat healthy, get outside as much as possible, and wait for it to end.
This feeling has extended long into February this year. Possibly because we typically take a vacation in February, and we didn't take one this year. And so my waiting continues. It's been another weird winter in New England, without a lot of snow to entertain us and keep us outside. We did get some skiing in over the weekend, and I was reminded how much it improves my outlook on winter. Skiing and yoga and good books.
Work has been good. Challenging and interesting and forcing me to think about the things I want to focus on. I am starting a new project, and as I've discussed at length before, I am not comfortable with change. Consulting is a strange business for someone who readily admits that, but I have made a tentative peace with being uncomfortable. The accomplishments and successes along the way motivate me, as does the opportunity to surround myself with smart and ambitious and interesting people.
And so I work, and read, and do my yoga, and my mind wanders to previous winters, especially as I think about my boys and our experiences together.
Nostalgia creeps in most, I think, when life is quiet.
December 19, 2017
A quick wrap-up of the remaining books I've read this year...
Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen.
One of my favorites. If you have any appreciation for Bruce Springsteen, you should read this book. His talent for storytelling, which makes him such a beautiful songwriter, also comes through in his writing here. I love reading autobiographies, and I especially love learning more about musicians. It makes listening to their music even more rich.
Anthropology of an American Girl, by Hilary Thayer Hamann.
I'm a little torn on this one. For about the first third of the book, I thought it was over-written - more metaphors and fancy phrases than was necessary to advance the story or develop the characters. I almost gave up on it several times. But there were enough compelling moments that kept me going, and then I made the turn and became invested in the main character. It was easy to recognize some of the characters around her, some of the events that happened to her, and her teenage, angst-ridden view of the world. It wasn't a traditional story, with a satisfying payoff at the end. Rather, it felt like a maturation - a reflection of what teenage girls go through on their way towards growing up.
The Mountain Between Us, by Charles Martin.
Fast-paced and satisfying story. There were times that it felt like a made-for-TV movie. It was not at all realistic, and yet I looked forward to seeing what happened next. Ultimately, it was surprising, and I liked it overall.
Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat, by Patricia Williams.
I loved this book. You know I'm a sucker for a good memoir. I'm not sure how this one ended up on my nightstand, but I'm so happy it did. This book will give you a new perspective, and a small appreciation of what it was like to grow up in urban Atlanta in the 1980s. It's difficult to read at times, but it's also well-written and accessible and impossible to put down. The most impressive aspect of the book is the author's ownership of her life. She makes no excuses, there is no judgment or wishing things had happened differently...she is simply sharing her story. She tells it like it was, and she also happens to be pretty damn funny, so it's incredibly powerful to read. Highly recommend.
Turtles All The Way Down, by John Green.
The most impressive feature in this book is Green's portrayal of anxiety. The reader gets so far into the main character's head that it can be downright uncomfortable to read, which is, of course, the point. It is realistic and eye-opening, and I have a whole new appreciation and empathy for those who suffer from mental illness, OCD, and/or anxiety disorders. The story was okay. Mostly it was interesting to see the main character, Aza, in relationships with other people: her best friend, her childhood friend/love interest, her mom. And I appreciated the realistic ending. But the narrative overall wasn't the draw. I'd recommend it, though.
Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan.
I wanted to love this book. I loved A Visit from the Good Squad, and I had seen such glowing reviews about this one. Expectations can be tough to manage sometimes, though. I liked it, don't get me wrong, but I didn't love it. It was well-written, and well-researched; but it was slow, and it felt very disconnected. I did like the historical perspective, and I'd still recommend it. I just wish I had fallen in love with it like I expected to.
December 18, 2017
Here we are, in the darkest week of the year. We wake up in the dark, we get home in the dark. The cold air sneaks under our old front door, and the humidifiers barely make a difference in the dry air. I thank the people long ago who decided that Christmas should be celebrated near the Winter Solstice. Having fun to look forward to during this bleak time is greatly appreciated.
Each December, my focus is on slowing down time so that I can fully enjoy the season. I'm doing pretty well so far this year. Online shopping makes that part easy - I've been done for weeks. I made a couple batches of cookie dough a couple weeks ago, and I split and froze it, so we can keep the cookie train rolling all month. I wrap a couple presents here and there while watching TV in the evening. I even managed to get holiday cards out! I hadn't planned to, but the boys decided it was a tradition they weren't ready to give up. I decided not to send homemade gifts to the family this year, and lifting that pressure off myself feels right. Maybe I'll do it in February - we can all use a pick-me-up in February.
The boys have been spending time making gifts and cards for family members, which is so lovely, especially when unprompted. They are so proud of their creations.
It's cold. I'm not a huge fan of being cold, but we got our first proper snowstorm at the beginning of the month, and the snow has stuck around. Snow adds to the magic of the season. The boys play outside every day, sledding until way past dark.
December is full of family birthdays that help mark the time. I am an aunt again! (For what could be the last time?) My sister-in-law gave birth to a boy, and I can't wait to meet him. His big sister turned four yesterday. My Aaron turned eleven last week. School and other activities give structure to our days and force us out, even when the couch is calling. Chorus concerts, basketball games, piano recitals... I smile and clap and beam with pride. I adore watching my boys play.
One week until Christmas. Next weekend will be full - basketball, The Last Jedi, Boston Pops, Elf and Home Alone, Kevin's lobster mac and cheese, presents on Christmas Eve. Full...but quiet. Just the four of us. I miss the noise and chaos that comes with family visits, but I can appreciate the quiet holidays too.
We'll get a dose of family chaos on Christmas Day, when we go visit our new baby nephew (and his family). And then we'll head north to hit the slopes. The forecast looks frigid, but we are all excited to get to the mountains.
As we enter this busy holiday time, my goal is to stay present in these moments. I'm ready.
December 11, 2017
Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit.
I read this with our company's Women's Leadership Network. It made some good points, but overall I found it too heavy-handed.
Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi.
I loved this book. It is an amazingly ambitious and interesting story that spans generations, starting with two sisters in Ghana. The book follows their descendants in Africa and in America and tells their stories. Each character is fully developed, and it's incredible how much history the author is able to cover. Seven generations and fourteen main characters in all. From eighteenth-century Ghana to the present day. Horrific and terribly sad in parts, it's beautifully told and important. Couldn't recommend enough.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
"The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you."
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
This book is going to stay on my nightstand for a good, long time. Actually, it probably belongs downstairs, somewhere I will read it during the day, because you need to be fully alert to take it in. Tyson is a wonderful writer, and he's very accessible; but he's also very intelligent and writing about incredibly complex topics. So although this is a small book, it still manages to cover a lot, and a lot of it went right over my head. I need to come back to it, and take more of it in small doses. That said, it's fascinating, and I thoroughly enjoyed trying to understand.
December 8, 2017
Well, I may not be blogging much, but I still listen to a lot of music. I love reading the end of year "best of" lists and finding new artists that I missed during the year. This week, I'm checking out Ray Davies and Caroline Spence, among others.
As usual, I also took a look back through the music I've loved during 2017. Any year that Jason Isbell comes out with new music is a good one. Margo Price has been on repeat as well, as both of those albums perfectly complement the current political and cultural climate. In looking through this list, I realize I could probably listen to more upbeat music from time to time. Although... Hiss Golden Messenger is beautiful, and Nikki Lane makes me turn it up and sing real loud. I love listening to Josh Ritter for many reasons, but also because I picture him smiling as he sings. Trombone Shorty - there's an upbeat artist. Listen to him and try not to dance. So maybe I'm okay.
Here's my list for 2017:
Jason Isbell - The Nashville Sound
Hiss Golden Messenger - Hallellujah Anyhow
Margo Price - All American Made
John Moreland - Big Bad Luv
The National - Sleep Well Beast
JD McPherson - Undivided Heart and Soul
The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding
Hurray for the Riff Raff - The Navigator
Chris Stapleton - From a Room, Volumes 1 & 2
Nikki Lane - Highway Queen
Noah Gundersen - White Noise
The Lone Bellow - Walk Into a Storm
Josh Ritter - Gathering
Aimee Mann - Mental Illness
Sera Cahoone - From Where I Started
Trombone Shorty - Parking Lot Symphony
Ryan Adams - Prisoner
Tift Merritt - Stitch of the World
Laura Marling - Semper Femina
Lilly Hiatt - Trinity Lane
November 28, 2017
Colored lights on the tree. My comfortable bed. A warm fireplace. Hot chocolate. Playing new games as a family. Roasted veggies. A Charlie Brown Christmas. Marking items off the to-do list. Good new music. Those fleeting moments when the boys play nicely and get along. Soft slippers. Egg nog with a little cinnamon and/or nutmeg sprinkled on top.
November 27, 2017
There's a lot to catch up on, so I will probably have several of these over the coming weeks. Here we go...
Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance.
I found this to be a compelling read. I am often drawn to memoirs that provide a unique and different perspective. It's a way of being able to step into someone else's shoes and understand their way of thinking. The hype around this book was about understanding "Trump voters", or more generally, the struggling white working-class. That oversimplifies it, though. It's a worthy read, and one that you'll want to talk about with someone else afterwards.
Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly.
I loved this book. It wasn't quite as awesome as The Nightingale, but it was a beautiful story made even more meaningful, since two of the main characters were real. The story was inspired by these real women, and each chapter is written from the perspective of one of the three women characters. It takes place primarily during WWII, with the end of the story happening years later.
The Boys of My Youth, by Jo Ann Beard.
I really wanted to like this book. Maybe it just wasn't the right time for it. I enjoyed the writing a bit, but I wasn't pulled in or affected by it. The book is written as separate essays, covering different times in one woman's life. It is very rare that I give up on a book, but about 3/4 of the way through this one, I put it aside. Life is too short to read a book that doesn't do it for you.
November 22, 2017
You know those friends who live far away, and who you don't talk to often enough, but when you do talk to them, it is as if no time has passed? Do you have those? I adore those friends. There's no need to spend too much time "catching up", and we can just dive into what's going on right now, and what compelled us to reach out. In fact, I'm going to make it a goal to call at least one of those friends tomorrow - on Thanksgiving - for no other reason than to tell them that I am grateful for them.
I've been away from the blog for a long time. My sister mentions this every time we talk - "no updates on the blog, I see", she says. "Yes, I know", I say. I haven't forgotten, I miss it, I will come back... And then life goes on. And then it can feel difficult to come back, because what do I say? Do I need to fill in the gaps? I missed an entire season! All of our glorious summer! Most of our soccer-filled fall! But I've decided to let it go, to jump back in to what's going on now.
Life is good. I have been working quite a bit, taking on more responsibilities and feeling good about what I'm accomplishing; but I did have the scales tipped way too far for a few months, and it has felt good to be able to come back up for air. I'm finding my balance again. It includes a decent amount of work, because I enjoy it; but it also includes time on my yoga mat, with my kids, listening to music, staying informed, and keeping up with my favorite entertainment (Stranger Things 2 was awesome).
And now the holiday season is upon us! I'm a little behind where I'd like to be, but I'll be fine. The shopping and the lists have begun. I've decided to take a break from holiday cards this year; mostly because I don't have any decent pictures, but also because it's nice to give myself a break. Maybe I'll be able to do more baking and cooking this year instead. I'd like to make some cranberry-orange marmalade again - it's my fave.
But first, Thanksgiving. My favorite day of the year. Time with family and good food and movies and relaxing and gratitude. I'm grateful for so much. My funny and cute partner for life, my sweet boys who still cuddle at 8 and almost-11, my warm and cozy house, my strong body that requires more maintenance these days but still gets me where I need to go... I have so much. Regardless of whether or not you celebrate Thanksgiving where you are, I hope you all take a minute to give thanks. And I'll see you back here soon. I promise.
June 27, 2017
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot.
What a fascinating book! I had never heard of HeLa or this story until it was recommended to me by some coworkers. It was suggested as a topic for our book club, and I am so glad it was! It's the story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black woman who died of cervical cancer in the early 1950s. The doctors took some of the cancerous cells from her tumor, without her knowledge or consent, and those cells ended up becoming a vital tool in the scientific community, contributing to the development of vaccines and other medical advancements. The book balances the scientific talk with the story of Henrietta and her family, as well as the author, who went on this journey with them to shine a light on Henrietta's life. I highly, highly recommend.
A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles.
I very much enjoyed this book, as I did his first book (Rules of Civility). The writing is wonderful, and he does such a good job of creating the setting. I am transported to the Metropol - a hotel in Moscow - in the1920s. Every scene is beautifully described, and I'm not distracted by the details, but rather I am absorbed by them. The story spans several decades and almost never leaves the hotel, and yet the story remained interesting the entire time. And the ending....well, let's just say that I adored the ending. Very satisfying.
The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead.
I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this book. Part of me wishes I had a book club group to discuss it with, because it is certainly worthy of discussion. I do think that it is a fresh and unique approach to telling a story about slavery. On the other hand, making the underground railroad a literal thing felt odd and seems to somehow take away from the actual history. The book contains one main character - a slave girl named Cora - but her journey takes her to so many places that it often feels like separate stories as she moves from place to place. That said, those stories are powerfully depicted, they stay with you, and they make you think about what they say about race relations today. Overall, I liked the book, and it's absolutely worthwhile.
June 15, 2017
I haven't been keeping up the blog, but I've still been reading, and it has become a habit to save links that I find interesting. I thought I'd clear out my history a bit and share some of the articles and posts I've enjoyed (somewhat) recently. Enjoy!
The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time. Yes to this. But why is it so hard to do?
Why Social Media is Not Smart for Middle School Kids. Aaron is off to middle school next year, and I've found myself drawn to articles like these. I want to be prepared for what's to come. After school orientation, a mom I know sent an email out to a huge distribution to let everyone know that her son would not be getting a phone next year - she was seeking support and solidarity. Maybe if we all agreed, we could keep them away for a while longer. She mostly received positive feedback, but a few disagreed, and it also seemed that quite a few parents are planning on giving them phones in 6th grade. 11 years old! Sigh. No judgment, truly - every family is different - but we do plan to hold out a bit longer than that.
Not Leadership Material? Good. The World Needs Followers. As I said, we're entering middle school next year, so college admissions is quite a ways off. But it's never too early to think about this, especially as they are still figuring out what their interests are.
Check This Box if You’re a Good Person. "..in the chaos of SAT scores, extracurriculars and recommendations, one quality is always irresistible in a candidate: kindness." I don't want my kids to be kind in order to get into college - I just want my kids to be kind.
Not Naughty: 10 Ways Kids Appear to Be Acting Bad But Aren't. I told my husband about this one. A reminder that so many of the ways our kids drive us crazy are completely normal. Sometimes we just have to let them be.
Politics of Professions. Not surprising, but fascinating. Most librarians are Democrats, most farmers are Republicans. As a group, doctors are in the middle, though pediatricians lean left and urologists right.
What Biracial People Know. Interesting article about the power of diversity in individuals as well as groups.
The Guilty Secret of Distracted Parenting. Oh my, I was definitely that mom on the playground reading a book or staring at her phone. Sitting at a playground while your kids play is boring! So is sitting outside the room while they practice piano. Or take their swim lesson. I'm grateful for Instagram and Twitter during those times. I am careful during games, and I typically only use my phone to text score updates to my husband, but I've realized that this looks the same to my kids - they only see me looking down. And dinnertime? Never - that's an absolute rule that I am careful to keep. No phones near the dinner table. All of it is a challenge and something to keep in mind, as we are modeling our kids' future behavior.
10 things that surprised me about early retirement. If we are far away from college, we are definitely far away from retirement. And yet I found this article intriguing. I wonder how long I will want to continue working. I wonder how Kevin will enjoy retirement.
How to Raise a Feminist Son. I think we're doing okay so far, but not in all these areas. I let them cry, they have lots of role models and exposure to different types of families, they have chores, and I'm teaching them to cook and clean. I encourage them to be themselves, although it's discouraging to see the pressure put on them from their peers. Nathan loved the pink stroller he got (at his request) for his 4th birthday, and he used to love princesses; but it all changed once he started school. We play with girls and read books where girls are the main character/hero. (Aaron is digging Nancy Drew right now.) Probably the area where we could improve the most is that we mostly adhere to traditional roles around the house. "If the mother cooks the food and cleans the house and the father mows the lawn and is often gone from home, lessons are learned." I worry about this, but we do the best we can.
Update: You Should've Asked. THIS.
June 12, 2017
Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders.
I LOVED this book. It's super weird and fascinating, and there's also real emotion and depth to it. It so uniquely and brilliantly weaves historical accounts of the night Willie Lincoln died with a supernatural story of ghosts in Willie's graveyard. I can imagine many people will hate this book. My husband is currently reading it, and every night when he puts it down, he says "this book is so strange". And it is. But if you're able to go into it with a completely open mind and no expectations for how a story should be presented to you, I promise it's worth it. It often reads like a play, and I can imagine the audiobook is especially entertaining. I may have to check that out, too.
Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett.
I liked this book. Well-written, interesting story, and thoughtful. I didn't love it, though, and the characters didn't stay with me afterwards. The organization of the book was a bit confusing to me, and I found it a little difficult to keep up with the multiple storylines and timeframes. It's a shame, because the individual chapters themselves contained some beautiful words and compelling insights. I wanted to love it more.
Discover Your True North, by Bill George.
The only thing I learned from this book is that I will never be a high-powered billionaire executive. And that's okay. I do like the concept of understanding yourself and your priorities and using that to navigate your career. That's much of what we focused on during my recent leadership training at work. It's important to understand who you are and to stay grounded in that rather than getting caught up in doing what you think you need to do to get ahead. All that said, I think I'm going to stay away from the business books for a while. Books are an escape from work.
June 6, 2017
Several weeks ago, on a regular evening after work and school, I casually mentioned to Aaron that he should practice the piano. He put his head down on the counter and started to cry. Taken aback, I asked him what was wrong. He said, "It's too hard!" Evidently he was a bit overwhelmed by the piece he was learning, so he was intimidated to start. I listened, and then explained that he should break it down into smaller, more manageable parts, and not get hung up on what the teacher wanted him to accomplish before next week's lesson. After some back and forth, we sat at the piano together and got started. He's still tackling that beast, and I'm so proud of him for not giving up.
After this conversation, I realized that I needed to give myself the same pep talk. I've been overwhelmed by the amount of work I've had lately, and in addition to sheer volume, there has been some challenging work as well. Spring is already a very busy time of year. Piano recitals, baseball games, chorus concerts, etc. It seems that every day has an event. I adore every one of these events, but it can be tough to find balance. When I get overwhelmed by my to-do list, it can be difficult to motivate myself and stay organized. It's much more tempting to check social media, read the news, watch TV...anything to procrastinate from the work I should be doing. Then, after being on my computer all day at work, I rarely want to get back online to do things like send personal emails or update my poor, neglected blog.
But I'm almost there. There are only two weeks left of school. I checked a few big items off my work to-do list, and I'm hoping the schedule will become a bit more manageable. I'm working to get my inbox and to-do list under control. I'm also learning to say no more often. I reminded myself that I do have a voice in how much I take on.
And so, with spring almost nearing its end, I am taking control and putting my priorities back in place. Then, I can enjoy life more fully. I can appreciate all those happy events and not feel distracted by everything else swirling around in my head. I can be more patient and attentive. I can be proactive and thinking towards the future. I can reach out to friends, make connections. And yes, I can update the blog.